Weeeeeeeeeeee! I did it, people! I actually finished my first garment! After much head scratching, many nights of gazing at the wonky mass of fraying scraps atop my dressform, and so many invisible zip tutorials, the Lola Kitty Cupcake dress is finally a thing – and I’m actually quite chuffed with it!
New Look 6262, view A
Kitty lilac polycotton print, £2.97 per metre, eBay. This dress used less than 2 metres, I could have maybe squeezed it out of 1.5.
Hmmmm, I’m not sure who decides this? I’d say it was beginner/easy, with some slightly advanced techniques because of the zip and facings. Otherwise it’s a very straightforward pattern.
Were the instructions clear?
Ish. They started off really clearly, but by the time the pattern moved to the end there were a few instructions missing. For instance, the pattern didn’t tell me how to finish the ends of my back facings by the zip, or how to deal with the top of the zip (the bit that is often enclosed on ready-to-wear garments). I just mitred and zigzagged the facing ends, but I ended up hacking off the zip top which looked a mess. I also didn’t know if I should have finished it off with a hook and eye or a button or what. In the end I did neither, as I find both really hard to fasten with my silly long nails. I shall report back and let you know if my dress spontaneously falls off in classic Barbara Windsor style as a result.
How was it for you?
I loved stitching this dress, if not quite from start to finish (twice I almost binned the project) certainly for the most part. It took me about a month from start to finish, but that was mainly because I had to read up and learn each technique. The actual sewing time was maybe 2-3 days, but would be much quicker for an experienced sewist.
I’m not a complete novice in that I learned basic theory as a teenager, but I’ve never finished a garment before, and had arrived at the conclusion many years back that I was temperamentally unsuited to dressmaking. I’m very much a ‘big picture’ person; I’m bad at details and precision and I like to cut corners. All of which are not massively compatible with dressmaking, certainly not at the beginning!
I nearly lost the plot when I tried so hard with my first arm binding, only for it to end up an unsightly mess. I was convinced I had done everything by the book! Thankfully the other one went better.
What have you learned?
A LOT. My largest and hardest-won lesson is that amazingly, I don’t know it all, and that actually the experts who have written the pattern probably know better than me.
I must have spent as many hours on Youtube searching for cheats, hacks and workarounds as I actually spent reading about how to do the techniques properly. Imagine my amazement when I finally cracked and followed the instructions and they worked perfectly. A good example are the neck facings – I don’t know why I have such an aversion to facings, but I know I’m not the only one. I decided that I’d use bias binding on the neck and it was only when my arms came out pretty crappy using bias tape that I realised I’d just have to suck it up and follow the pattern. The neck ended up being the part of the piece I am most proud of, especially the understitching. Just look at my happy little face.
I also learned the value of interfacing. I spent maybe two hours sweating over my zip until I came across this Craftsy tutorial that recommended interfacing the zip area. It allowed me to press the seams flat which made the world of difference. Don’t get me wrong, the final zip was a scandalous breach of the Trades Descriptions Act, being visible as fuck. But it was neat and straight, and I personally don’t mind seeing a bit of zip.
I spent ages binding the waistband seams to disguise that tatty seam finish you end up with when you gather fabric. I’d zigzagged the seam allowance but it still looked an unholy mess, and because I was trying desperately to be profesh and do things properly I painstakingly bound both sides of the seam allowance, only to find that the white bias binding showed through awfully at the front. It had to come straight off again!
How did it fit?
Erm…OK. I have learned the value of the Full Bust Adjustment. I didn’t do one (I graded between sizes) and the shoulders and armscyes are noticeably too big, because I’m a size 10-12 frame but a 14-16 bust.
Did you hack it?
Does embellishing it to within an inch of its life count!? I’d always intended to add ric rac, because I love it, but the shoulder bows and broderie anglaise faux sleeves were a last minute addition. I’m really pleased with the way they balance the skirt, and detract from my massive boobs which are not flattered at all by the boat neckline and light colour.
I also didn’t gather the skirt all the way around, leaving the front flat because I wanted it to retain a bit of the 1970s A-line silhouette.
Would you make it again, and if so what would you do differently?
Yes, definitely. I’d do the FBA, I’d cut the shoulders in a bit (as I feel they hang in the no man’s land between sleeveless and grown-on caps). I’d draft a scoop neck and drop the waist by an inch. It actually strikes me as a good intro into pattern adjustments.
Once I’d got the fit OK I would probably line it too, especially if it was in a similar lightweight fabric.
And finally…will you wear it out?
I already have, my friend!
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